Prepared By: Neegan Burnside Ltd.
Prepared for: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Date: January 2011
File No: FGY163080.4
PDF Version (3.3 Mb, 105 Pages)
Statement of Qualifications and Limitations for Regional Roll-Up Reports
This regional roll-up report has been prepared by Neegan Burnside Ltd. and a team of subconsultants (Consultant) for the benefit of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (Client). Regional summary reports have been prepared for the 8 regions, to facilitate planning and budgeting on both a regional and national level to address water and wastewater system deficiencies and needs.
The material contained in this Regional Roll-Up report is:
Risk as it pertains to health and safety issues and building code compliance is based upon hazards readily identifiable during a simple walk through of the water and wastewater facilities, and does not constitute a comprehensive assessment with regard to health and safety regulations and or building code regulations.
The Consultant accepts no responsibility for any decisions made or actions taken as a result of this report.
The Government of Canada is committed to providing safe, clean drinking water in all First Nations communities, and to ensuring that wastewater services in all First Nations communities meet acceptable effluent quality standards. As part of this commitment, the Government announced the First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan (FNWWAP). The plan funds the construction and renovation of water and wastewater facilities, operator training, and public health activities related to water and wastewater on reserves. It also provided for a national, independent assessment – The National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems – which will inform the Government’s future, long-term investment strategy. This assessment was also recommended by the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.
The purpose of the assessment is to define current deficiencies and operational needs, as well as long-term infrastructure development strategies and needs for each community on a sustainable basis. The objectives of this assessment are to:
This assessment involved collecting background data and information about each community, undertaking a site visit, and preparing individual community reports for each participating First Nation. The assessment was conducted for each of the eight regions. This report summarizes the findings for the Saskatchewan region.
Site visits in the Saskatchewan region were undertaken by personnel from Neegan Burnside Ltd. and sub-consultants, R.J. Burnside & Associates Limited and KGS Group during September and October of 2009 and May, June, July and August of 2010. Each visit included at least two team members. In addition to the consultant staff, additional participants including the Circuit Rider Trainer (CRT), INAC Representative, Environmental Health Officer (EHO) from Health Canada and Tribal Council Representatives were invited to attend the site visits. The additional participants that were able to attend are identified in each community report.
After confirming the number and type of systems that the First Nation uses to provide water and wastewater services to the community, and after considering the community’s current and future population and servicing needs, an assessment was carried out of the communal water and wastewater systems, and 5% of the individual systems.
Individual community reports have been prepared for each First Nation. In cases where the First Nation consists of multiple communities, each located in a geographically distinct area, a separate report was prepared for each community. In the Saskatchewan Region, there was 100% participation from the 69 First Nations with on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, which resulted in the preparation of 86 individual community reports. A report was not submitted for one First Nation that did not have any members living on-reserve and had no water or wastewater assets. Figure 1.1 indicates the location of each First Nation visited as a part of this study.
The reports include an assessment of existing communal systems and existing individual systems, identification of needs to meet Departmental, Federal and Provincial protocols and guidelines, and an assessment of existing servicing of the community along with projections of population and flows for future servicing for the 10 year period. Each report also includes the projected cost of the recommendations to meet departmental protocol, federal and provincial guidelines, regulations, and standards, an evaluation of servicing alternatives, and the life-cycle cost of each alternative.
An annual water inspection, risk evaluation and ACRS inspection was completed for each system and are included in the Appendices of each report.
The Saskatchewan region includes 69 First Nations with on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure. There are 103 water systems (94 First Nations and 9 Municipal Type Agreements), and 88 wastewater systems (83 First Nations and five Municipal Type Agreements).
A water or wastewater system considered a First Nation system, consists of INAC-funded assets, and serves five or more residences or community buildings. A Municipal Type Agreement (MTA), on the other hand, is when First Nations are supplied with treated water from or send their wastewater to a nearby municipality or neighbouring First Nation or corporate entity as outlined in a formal agreement between the two parties.
In Saskatchewan, the First Nation community population ranges from 17 to 5,482 people, and household sizes range from 1.9 to 10.0 people per unit (ppu). The total number of homes is 14,248, and the average household size is 5.0 ppu.
There are a total of 103 water systems serving 68 First Nations. One First Nation is serviced solely by individual wells. For water treatment, the 103 water systems include:
For water distribution, the 103 systems include:
The following is a summary of the level of service being provided to the homes within the Saskatchewan region:
Table 2.1, below, provides an overview of the water systems by system classification, source type, treatment type and storage type. In general, the treatment system classification reflects the complexity of the treatment process and the distribution classification reflects the population of the community being serviced. Treatment systems labeled “Small System” and “None” typically represent systems with either disinfection only or no treatment.
|System Classification||No.||% of Total|
|Source Type||No.||% of Total|
|Storage||No.||% of Total|
|Treatment Type||No.||% of Total|
|None - Direct Use||4||4%|
There are a total of 88 wastewater systems serving 67 First Nations. The remaining two First Nations are serviced solely by individual septic systems. For wastewater treatment, the 88 systems include:
For wastewater collection, the 88 systems include:
The following is a summary of the level of service being provided to the homes within the Saskatchewan region:
The homes without service were split between 12 different communities.
The following table provides an overview of the wastewater systems by system classification and treatment type:
|System Classification||No.||% of Total|
|Treatment Type||No.||% of Total|
For 103 of the communal water systems, the average per capita demand ranges from 30 L/p/d to 986 L/p/d, with an average per capita demand of approximately 280 L/p/d.
For the systems without flow data, an average per capita flow rate ranging from 225 L/p/d to 325 L/p/d for piped servicing and 90 L/p/d for truck haul was used to evaluate the water systems.
The distribution of per capita flow is outlined in Table 3.1.
|No. of systems 2009|
|Less than 250 L/c/d||42|
|250 L/c/d to 375 L/c/d||46|
|Greater than 375 L/c/d||15|
Historical flow data for wastewater was not available for most of the sewage systems. Therefore, to evaluate the ability of the existing infrastructure to meet the current and projected needs, an average daily flow was calculated based on the actual or assumed per capita water consumption, plus an infiltration allowance of 90 L/c/d for piped servicing.
The following summarizes the plant capacity for the water and wastewater systems:
The data shows that 45 water systems and 33 wastewater systems are operating at or beyond their estimated capacities. The per capita demand for the plants identified as over capacity was within typical values for the region, according to available records.
The household size for the 69 First Nations ranges from 1.9 to 10.0 people per unit (ppu), with an average of 5.0 ppu. The total number of piped connections in the region is 10,523 for water and 7,002 for wastewater. The average length per connection of watermain in the region is 72 m. The average length per connection of sewermain in the region is 43 m.
As shown in the table and figures below, there is no real correlation between the size of the community and the length of pipe per connection. The length of watermain per connection is much greater than the length of sanitary main per connection. However, this difference is because some communities provide piped water service only through small diameter, low-pressure lines and, as such, the homes are farther apart to allow for the installation of private sewage systems.
It should also be noted that, in some cases, the data provided for watermain includes low-pressure lines, dedicated transmission main lengths (with no service connections), and non-distribution mains (i.e. intake pipes, raw water pipes). As a result, the average length per connection is inflated, particularly for smaller communities where the additional pipe length is spread over a smaller number of connections.
The table below indicates the number of water and wastewater systems that have pipe lengths above and below 30 m/connection. It should be noted that this information was not available for all of the systems.
|No. of systems with pipe lengths above 30 m/connection||85||70|
|No. of systems with pipe lengths below 30 m/connection||7||11|
A risk assessment has been completed for each water system according to the INAC Risk Level Evaluation Guidelines. Each facility is ranked in risk according to the following categories: Water Source, Design, Operation (and Maintenance), Reporting and Operators and the risk levels of all five categories are then used to determine the overall risk for the system.
Each of the five risk categories, as well as the overall risk level of the entire system, is ranked numerically from 1 to 10. Low, medium and high risks are defined as follows:
Regional Risk Summary:
Of the 103 water systems inspected:
The table in Appendix E.1 summarizes the correlation between the component risk and the overall risk. In general, Municipal Type Agreement systems have the lowest risk, followed by groundwater systems, then surface water systems, and, finally, groundwater under the direct influence of surface water (GUDI) systems.
Figure 3.4 provides a geographical representation of the final risk for the water systems that were inspected.
The following table summarizes the overall system risk by water source. 57% of the GUDI systems, 27% of groundwater systems, and 24% of surface water systems are high-risk systems. None of the Municipal Type Agreement systems are classified as high risk. Generally, Municipal Type Agreement systems are assumed to have low-risk water supplies because the municipalities operate their systems in compliance with provincial legislation. For the Saskatchewan region, however, there are a number of Municipal Type Agreement water supplies where the treated water does not meet the GCDWQ, which resulted in medium-risk rankings for these systems.
|Overall Risk Level||Groundwater||GUDI||SurfaceWater||MTA||Total|
The following table summarizes the overall system risk by the classification level of the treatment system. System classification is based on a number of factors. There is no clear pattern between the system classification level and the overall system risk.
|Overall Risk Level||None||Small System||Level I||Level II||MTA||Total|
The majority of systems serving more than 100 connections tend to have a medium overall risk, while the systems serving less than 100 connections are fairly evenly distributed between all three risk categories (i.e. high, medium and low).
The overall risk is comprised of five component risks: water source, design, operation, reporting and operator. Each of these component risk factors is discussed in the following sections.
The risk associated with the water source has a mean score of 6.6. The mean source risk score by type of source is:
The data indicates that systems that rely on GUDI or surface water typically have a higher component risk score than systems that rely on groundwater. The risk formula automatically assigns a higher base risk to these types of systems.
The following figure identifies drivers that contribute to source risk scores.
The risk associated with the design has a mean score of 5.9. The mean design risk score by type of source is:
The higher design risk associated with GUDI sources is likely because the original water source was considered to be groundwater and as a result, the only treatment required was disinfection. The level of treatment required for a GUDI source has been upgraded to be equivalent to surface water. Five of the GUDI systems are high risk, one is medium risk, and one is low risk.
As part of the multi-barrier approach to water treatment, chlorination is now required for all water systems. Typically, a groundwater system has an increased design risk if there is no disinfection system in place, or if there is insufficient contact time to ensure that the chlorination process is adequate.
The higher risk for surface water sources and Municipal Type Agreements is typically because the treated water system or distribution system exceeds the GCDWQ for disinfection by-products.
There are several key drivers that have a significant impact on the region’s design risk scores, including:
It should be noted that the design risk drivers in red result in the entire water system being given a high risk score, regardless of all of the other component risk scores.
The risk associated with operation has a mean score of 5.9. The mean operation risk score by type of source is:
There are several key drivers that have a significant impact on the region’s operation risk scores, including:
One or more major components are not working for 37% of the systems. Although the operators for approximately 94% of systems practice line flushing and 89% flush hydrants, only 41% regularly swab watermains. Reservoir cleaning is completed for 76% of the systems and fire pump testing for 81% of the systems. Records of system maintenance and repairs were available for 64% of the systems.
The risk associated with reporting has a mean score of 6.3. The mean reporting risk score by type of source is:
For the majority of systems (71%), poor record keeping and reporting are the main drivers for the reporting risk. For water systems with a Supervisory Data Control Acquisition system, some operators are successfully decreasing risk by calibrating instruments to ensure that the information being recorded is accurate.
An important consideration is that the systems were evaluated based on the requirements for monitoring and reporting as set out in INAC’s Protocol. Generally, system monitoring and reporting do not meet these requirements. Operator awareness and training could have a significant impact on these risk scores.
The risk associated with the operator has a mean score of 1.5. Of the five risk components, this has the lowest mean score and is one of the components that is significantly reducing water-system risk in the Saskatchewan region.
The majority of the operators in the Saskatchewan region are certified to the appropriate level. However, 1 system does not have a primary operator, and 11 treatment systems and 13 distribution systems do not have a back-up operator. The mean operator risk score by type of source is:
The extent to which existing systems have fully certified primary and backup operators is presented in Table 3.5. Of the 92 systems that require a certified operator for the water treatment system, 20% did not have a fully certified primary operator and 71% did not have a fully certified backup operator. Of the 97 systems that require a certified operator for the distribution system, 11% did not have a fully certified primary operator and 57% did not have a fully certified backup operator.
|Primary Operator||Backup Operator|
|No. of Systems Currently Without an Operator||1||1||11||13|
|No. of Systems with Operator with No Certification||8||10||39||40|
|No. of Systems with Operator Certified but not to the Required Level of the System||9||0||15||2|
|No. of Systems with Operator with Adequate Certification||74||86||27||42|
|No. of Systems Not Requiring Operators with Certification||11||6||11||6|
|Total No. of Systems||103||103||103||103|
Those factors which frequently contribute to increased operator risk are identified in Figure 3.12. A lack of certification, lack of training and the lack of primary or backup operator are common drivers that increase operator risk.
A risk assessment was completed for each wastewater system according to INAC’s Risk Level Evaluation Guidelines. The risk of each facility is ranked according to the following categories: effluent receiver, design, operation, reporting and operators. The risk levels of all five categories are used to determine the overall risk for the system. The overall risk score is a weighted average of the component risk scores.
Each of the five risk categories, as well as the overall risk level of the entire system, is ranked numerically from 1 to 10. A risk ranking of 1.0 to 4.0 represents a low risk, a risk ranking of 4.1 to 7.0 represents a medium risk, and a risk of 7.1 to 10.0 represents a high risk.
Of the 88 wastewater systems inspected:
All of the wastewater Municipal Type Agreement systems are low risk.
Appendix E.2 provides a table that summarizes the correlation between component risk and overall risk.
Figure 3.13 provides a geographical representation of the final risk for the wastewater systems that were inspected.
Figure 3.14 demonstrates the correlation between the overall system risk and the classification level of the treatment system. For Municipal Type Agreements, it is assumed that the municipality is operating their system in accordance with provincial legislation, which results in a low-risk rating.
For the Saskatchewan region, there is no clear pattern between the overall system risk and the number of connections.
The overall risk is comprised of five component risks: effluent receiver, design, operation, reporting and operators. Each of these component risk factors is discussed below.
The effluent receiver has a mean risk score of 3.9, and there is a fairly even distribution of the risk scores. The key drivers of this risk score are:
The risk associated with the design has a mean score of 4.4. A total of 55 of the systems have a low-risk design score. Half of the overall high-risk systems also have a high design risk.
There are several key drivers of the design risk scores in the region, including:
The risk associated with the operation has a mean score of 5.8. Most of the wastewater systems have a medium- or a high-risk score. This is identified as an area of opportunity for increased risk mitigation efforts.
There are several key drivers of increased operation risk in the region, including:
The risk associated with reporting has a mean score of 8.0. The reporting risk component assesses whether operators maintain effluent-testing and system-monitoring records. Poor record keeping is a significant factor in raising the overall risk ranking for many communities in this region. For reporting, 20 systems have a low-risk score, 1 system has a medium-risk score, and 67 systems have a high-risk score.
The risk associated with the operator has a mean score of 1.7. Operator risk is determined by whether or not the operators have adequate certification. The operator risk is the lowest mean component score for the region, which is because there are a high number of certified operators. There is only one system that is high risk because the primary operator does not have adequate certification and there is no backup operator.
The extent to which existing wastewater systems have fully certified primary and backup operators is presented in Table 3.6. Of the 83 systems which require a certified operator for the wastewater treatment system, 11% did not have a fully certified primary operator and 64% did not have a fully certified backup operator. Of the 84 systems which require a certified operator for the collection system, 12% did not have a fully certified primary operator and 64% did not have a fully certified backup operator.
|Primary Operator||Backup Operator|
|No. of Systems Currently Without an Operator||0||0||10||10|
|No. of Systems with Operator with No Certification||11||10||42||41|
|No. of Systems with Operator Certified but not to the Required Level of the System||0||0||1||4|
|No. of Systems with Operator with Adequate Certification||72||74||30||29|
|No. of Systems Not Requiring Operators with Certification||5||4||5||4|
|Total No. of Systems||88||88||88||88|
Those factors which frequently contribute to increased wastewater operator risk are identified in Figure 3.20. A lack of certification, lack of training and the lack of primary or backup operator are common drivers that increase operator risk.
Information was collected regarding the availability of various documents, including Source Water Protection Plans (SWPP), Maintenance Management Plans (MMP), operation and maintenance manuals and Emergency Response Plans (ERP). The following tables provide a summary of the percentages of First Nations that have plans in place.
|Source||Percentage of Water Systems that have a (an)...|
|Source Water Protection Plan||Maintenance Management Plan||Emergency Response Plan|
|Percentage of Wastewater Systems that have a (an)…|
|Maintenance Management Plan||Emergency Response Plan|
Source water protection planning is one component in a multi-barrier approach to providing safe drinking water. Source Water Protection Plans seek to identify threats to the water source. They also establish policies and practices to prevent contamination of the water source, and to ensure that the water service provider is equipped to take corrective action in the event of a contamination. Source water protection is appropriate for both groundwater and surface water sources.
Only 7% of the systems inspected reported that they had completed a Source Water Protection Plan.
Maintenance Management Plans are intended to improve the effectiveness of maintenance activities. They plan, schedule, and document preventative maintenance activities, and they document unscheduled maintenance. The plans represent a change from reactive to proactive thinking, and— when executed properly— they optimize maintenance spending, minimize service disruption and extend asset life.
Approximately 52% of the water systems and 40% of the wastewater systems indicated that they have a Maintenance Management Plan in place.
Emergency Response Plans are intended to be a quick reference to assist operators and other stakeholders in managing and in responding to emergency situations. Emergency Response Plans should be in place for both water and wastewater systems. They include key contact information for those who should be notified and who may be of assistance in case of emergency (agencies, contractors, suppliers, etc.), and they provide standard communication and response protocols. Emergency Response Plans identify recommended corrective actions for “foreseeable” emergencies, as well as methodologies for addressing unforeseen situations. They are essentially the last potential “barrier” in a multi-barrier approach to protecting the drinking water supply and the natural environment, and they provide the last opportunity to mitigate damages.
40% of the water systems and 33% of the wastewater systems have an Emergency Response Plan in place.
In 2006, INAC began to develop a series of Protocol documents for centralised and decentralised water and wastewater systems in First Nations communities. The Protocols contain standards for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and monitoring of these systems.
One of the objectives of this study was to review the existing water and wastewater infrastructure, and to identify the potential upgrade costs to meet INAC’s Protocol, as well as federal and provincial guidelines, standards, and regulations. The total estimated construction cost for water system upgrades to meet the INAC Protocol is $137 million.
Table 4.1 provides a breakdown of the estimated total capital costs identified. A separate line item is included for engineering and contigency. Figure 4.1 provides a comparison graph of each of the categories. Note that treatment alone comprises over half of the estimated costs.
|Additional Fire Pumps||$1,055,000||$0||$455,000|
|Storage & Pumping||$3,038,000||$2,510,000||$2,380,500|
|Engineering & Contingencies||$27,438,650||$12,572,550||$14,879,550|
|Construction Total Estimate||$137,099,800||$62,760,250||$74,173,500|
There are 34 water systems that may potentially have groundwater under the influence of surface water (GUDI) water supplies. The upgrade costs for these systems have been estimated under the assumption that they will prove to be secure groundwater supplies, but further studies are recommended to confirm this assumption.
If the GUDI studies indicate that these supplies should be considered to be surface water rather than groundwater, then additional upgrades will be required to meet INAC’s Protocols. It is estimated that, depending on system capacity and site indices, an additional $1.0 to $2.5 million will be required for each system that needs to be upgraded to surface water treatment.
Below is a breakdown of some of the major expenses:
Treatment costs include:
Building costs include:
Storage & Pumping costs include:
Plans/Documentation costs include:
|Non-Construction Total Estimate||$11,345,000||$7,939,000||$7,538,000|
Additional annual operations and maintenance costs, shown in Table 4.3, include costs that occur annually for items that are not currently being completed to meet protocols, such as calibrating monitoring equipment, additional sampling, cleaning the reservoir, and backup operator’s salary.
|Water O&M Total Estimated Cost||$1,854,500|
The total estimated cost, including construction and non-construction costs, for water system upgrades to meet the INAC Protocol is $148.4 million. This excludes costs associated with potentially GUDI systems as discussed previously.
The total construction cost estimate for the wastewater system upgrades that will be required for systems to meet INAC’s Protocol is $52 million. Below is a list of the specific needs, the number of systems impacted by the upgrades, and the total cost of each need.
Increasing capacity, extending the collection system, and providing standby power represent about 78% of the upgrade costs. 20 systems need upgrades to increase capacity, but they are high-cost upgrades. Providing standby power is a widespread necessity, but a low-cost need.
|Engineering & Contingencies||$10,509,200||$9,168,700||$9,180,900|
|Construction Total Estimate||$52,395,700||$45,722,200||$45,756,400|
Below is an itemized breakdown of some of the major expenses:
Treatment costs include:
Collection costs include:
|Non-Construction Total Estimate||$2,205,500||$1,459,500||$1,254,500|
Additional annual operations and maintenance costs, as shown in Table 4.6, include costs that occur annually, for items that are not currently being completed to meet protocols, such as calibrating monitoring equipment, additional sampling, and backup operator’s salary.
|Wastewater O&M Total Estimated Cost||$185,200|
The total estimated cost, including construction and non-construction costs, for wastewater system upgrades is $54.6 million.
Table 4.7 provides a summary of the upgrade costs to meet INAC’s Protocol, and federal and provincial guidelines, standards, and regulations:
|Total Estimated Cost|
|Upgrade to meet Protocol||$148,444,800||$54,601,200|
|Upgrade to meet Federal Guidelines||$70,699,250||$47,181,700|
|Upgrade to meet Provincial Guidelines||$81,711,500||$47,010,900|
The following tables present a breakdown of the costs (by risk level) to meet INAC’s Protocols.
|Risk Level||Short Term||Long Term||Total|
|Risk Level||Short Term||Long Term||Total|
ACRS (Asset Condition and Reporting System) inspections were completed for all water and wastewater related assets. For the purposes of this assessment, ACRS needs were limited to required repairs of existing facilities, and did not include any upgrade costs, in order to avoid duplication with the Upgrade to Protocol needs identified. The following two tables (Tables 4.10 and 4.11) provide a summary of the required operation & maintenance repairs broken down by the type of asset for both water and wastewater systems.
|Asset Code||Description||Estimated Cost|
|B1I||Low Lift Pumping||$27,000|
|B1H||High Lift Pumping||$296,550|
|Water ACRS Total Estimated Cost||$2,478,845|
|Asset Code||Description||Estimated Cost|
|B2H/B2J||Lift Stations & Forcemains||$617,150|
|Wastewater ACRS Total Estimated Cost||$4,016,700|
An analysis was completed to evaluate future servicing alternatives for a 10-year design period. The analysis considers a variety of alternatives, including expanding existing systems, developing new systems, establishing local Municipal Type Agreements (if applicable), and using individual systems.
A theoretical operation and maintenance cost was developed for each alternative, along with a 30-year life-cycle cost. The cost of the upgrades that are necessary for systems to meet INAC’s Protocol is included in the new servicing cost, if appropriate (i.e. for new servicing alternatives that include continued use of the existing system).
The following table summarizes the capital cost and the total estimated operation & maintenance cost of the recommended servicing alternatives.
|Total Estimated Cost||Cost Per Connection|
|Future Servicing Cost||$400,000,000||$280,000,000||$18,600||$13,100|
|Annual O&M to service future growth||$37,500,000||$21,200,000||$1,700||$1,000|
The existing servicing in the Saskatchewan region includes piped and trucked connections and individual servicing. Most communities include a core area of greater density around community buildings, typically serviced by piped water with fire protection and gravity sewer lines, and rural lots, serviced by low pressure water lines, trucked water delivery, or individual wells for water, and trucked sewage haul or private septic systems for wastewater.
In evaluating future servicing options, the location of new homes in core areas with piped servicing, or rural areas with low pressure water or individual servicing, was considered. In most cases piped water and sewer lines provided the most economical option as well as a higher level of service. This assumes that future homes would be constructed in a more compact subdivision type setting adjacent to the existing serviced area. In cases where residents choose to build homes in outlying areas, individual or truck haul servicing may be more appropriate.
Modification of the servicing to existing homes was not considered in the future servicing evaluation, except in cases where the existing servicing methods posed a health risk or had serious operational concerns. In some areas of the region existing individual wells have concentrations of naturally-occurring metals such as lead, arsenic, or uranium, at levels above the federal limits. Other private wells are installed without adequate casing or wellhead protection and are susceptible to bacteriological contamination from the surface. In some cases it may be possible to replace existing wells with cisterns for trucked delivery or connect to low pressure water lines.
Private septic systems are used extensively throughout the region, and in many cases these systems pose operational concerns because of poor soil conditions or improper installation techniques. Although the region has had a longstanding, cost-sharing incentive program to convert individual surface discharge septic systems (shoot-outs) to sub-surface disposal systems, such as tile fields, mounds, and/or seepage pits, many septic systems continue to rely upon surface discharge systems.
Regional cost-sharing incentives have essentially eliminated the use of single-family lagoon systems, but additional efforts will be required to reduce the current environmental and health hazards that are associated with surface discharge or “sewage spray jet” systems. In most cases, it should be possible to replace surface discharge systems with sub-surface disposal facilities constructed specifically for the conditions or with truck haul service. Low-pressure sewer lines may be another viable solution in some locations, although they are not used extensively in the region.
It is assumed that houses without service in the Saskatchewan region are not viable for renovation and will need to be replaced. Site inspections confirmed that there are a total of 44 homes without wastewater services and 45 homes without any form of water service. The cost for the required replacement of these housing units has not been carried as part of this study.
All 69 First Nations in the Saskatchewan Region with water and wastewater infrastructure were visited during the completion of this project. 9 of the First Nations, or 9%, are serviced by Municipal Type Agreements with a neighbouring municipality for water, while 5 communities are serviced by Municipal Type Agreements for wastewater. The majority of First Nations have a core area serviced with piped distribution with the outlying areas serviced by individual wells and septic systems or by truck haul. Only one First Nation is serviced entirely by individual wells, and two First Nations are serviced entirely by individual septic systems.
According to INAC, a “Public System” serves five or more houses or community buildings. In Saskatchewan, however, a “Public System” was defined as a system that provides services to three or more houses, which has led to many three-house systems.
In the Saskatchewan region, there are 27 water systems and 4 wastewater systems identified as high risk. Although there are multiple factors that contribute to risk, the analysis suggests that INAC, Health Canada, and Band Councils should give design and operational concerns the most weight, particularly when the concern is related to the protection of public health or to the environment. The high-risk water systems in the region typically require system upgrades or improved operational procedures to meet the GCDWQ.
According to the assessment, INAC, First Nations and Health Canada can reduce risk significantly by ensuring that all water and wastewater systems are designed and constructed in accordance with INAC’s Protocols and that they are operated in accordance with best management practices.
A significant concern is that 69% of the water systems have exceeded 75% of their design capacity. Historical standards that promoted the use of 180 L/p/d for the design of piped water systems have, in part, contributed to the water treatment plant capacity problem in the region. Although the Saskatchewan region took the initiative in 2004 to increase the minimum water consumption rates for piped system design to 235 L/p/d through a local Operating Instruction, the rates used for design purposes continue to fall short of actual water consumption data, which is currently averaging 280 L/p/d.
Ammonia in the water supply is a recurring concern, interfering with sodium hypochlorite addition. Use of chlorination or pretreatment with ion exchange or membrane filtration may be an option.
In terms of positive developments, the Saskatchewan region has significantly reduced risk levels through a very aggressive and effective program that facilitates the certification of First Nation water and wastewater operators. This program is supported by an effective regional Circuit Rider program, which provides competent and committed training staff for First Nation operators through the Saskatchewan Water Corporation, and by the Saskatoon, Prince Albert Grand Council and Meadow Lake Tribal Council organizations. That the mean operator risk scores for water and wastewater are so low—1.5 for water and 1.7 for wastewater—reflects the success of these efforts. Risk could also be reduced with the completion of various planning tools, including Source Water Protection Plans, Maintenance Management Plans and Emergency Response Plans. Currently, Source Water Protection Plans are available for only 7% of the regional water systems.
Various individual First Nations commented that current Operation & Maintenance budgets are often insufficient to retain operators, to provide ongoing component replacement, and to perform all of the monitoring and recording requirements. A regional review of current Operation & Maintenance unit costs for water and wastewater infrastructure may be warranted.
The Saskatchewan region relies solely upon lagoon systems for communal wastewater treatment. Many lagoons appear to experience exfiltration. It is not clear whether exfiltration was part of the original design intent, and it may be appropriate to investigate whether this practice has any negative impacts.
Wastewater sampling prior to effluent discharge appears to be another area to address in order to minimize the overall risk significantly. Although some operators do sample, test and record effluent quality prior to discharge, the practice is not consistent for all systems across the region. To address the reporting risk component for wastewater systems, INAC, in conjunction with First Nations, Health Canada, and/or Environment Canada, could develop a protocol for sampling, testing, reporting and monitoring.
In Saskatchewan region, low pressure water lines are used to connect many rural houses. Septic systems are used extensively, but many operational concerns were observed. Individual surface discharge systems pose health and environmental concerns.